Volume 42, September 2004: Convening People

Keyzine: An E-zine for Leaders about the People Side of Business

This is a monthly electronic magazine for anyone who wants to be a better leader, coach, facilitator, or simply, to tune up their people skills. It is a complimentary publication, devoted to the next evolution of Quality Thinking.

Publisher: © Key Associates, LLC, 2004 ISSN # 1545-8873

“We must have a pure, honest, and warm-hearted motivation, and on top of that, determination, optimism, hope, and the ability not to be discouraged. The whole of humanity depends on this motivation.” — The Dalai Lama

“There is no power for change greater than a community discovering what it cares about.” — Margaret Wheatley

“Whenever two or more are gathered, I am there.” — Matthew 18:20


  • What’s Hot in Leadership
  • Maintaining Yourself as a Leader
  • Frequently Asked Questions from Leaders
  • Educational Opportunities
  • Useful Websites & Newsletters
  • Articles/Publications

What’s Hot in Leadership

  • Having frequent conversations with all employees, just to learn.
  • Giving up control and the need to be right.
  • Practicing the art of thinking together.
  • Balancing action with reflection.

Maintaining Yourself as a Leader

I have never seen instructional material, in leadership training or development programs, about convening groups and managing conversations in that context. More likely, the leaders’ mentors and role models have stood before masses and “told” the people how it was. Having simple, truthful conversations with people enables a leader to learn, and gives others a chance to speak, feel heard, and also to learn. This is the natural way humans think together. Listening moves us closer. Dialogue brings about innovative ideas. Thinking rocks the status quo. Widen your space for conversations – extend yourself in groups, suspend judgment, open your mind, and listen to learn.

Frequently Asked Questions

“Do you have suggestions for creating conversations?”
Margaret Wheatley says this beautifully in her book, Turning to One Another (p. 145):
  • Ask “What’s possible,” not “What’s wrong?” Keep asking.
  • Be brave enough to start a conversation that matters.
  • Talk to people you know. Talk to people you don’t know. Talk to people you never talk to.
  • Be intrigued by the answers you hear. Expect to be surprised. Treasure curiosity more than certainty.
  • Invite in everybody who cares to work on what’s possible. Acknowledge that everyone is an expert on something. Know that creative solutions come from new connections.
“Can you suggest formats for conversational meetings?”
Here are some newer meeting styles:
  • Ask Me Meetings: Basic Q&A.
  • CEO Viewpoint Sessions: Allows groups of employees to to voice concerns, raise questions and share ideas with the CEO.
  • Greenhouse Meetings: Tackle difficult problems and come up with innovative solutions that managers are responsible for implementing.
  • Marathon Meetings: Keeping participants at the meeting until a decision is reached.
  • Problem-finding Meetings: The only agenda is to identify issues and problems, not solve them.
  • Results Review Meetings: Conclusions are drawn and plans made from review of data.
  • Sound off Meetings: Participants vent their feelings, with the guidelines: no name calling, participation by all, listening to others and acceptance of others’ feelings.
  • Whine and Cheese Party: A Sound Off with a festive flair. Additional guideline is that after the party, no more whining.
  • Vertical Meetings: Held with no chairs.
  • 10-10: A format made famous by Logansport Memorial Hospital. A vertical meeting held for 10 minutes every Tuesday at 10 o’clock to update all managers.
  • Walking Meetings: Meetings on the hoof. People are more creative standing and moving.
  • Workout Meetings: Made popular by Jack Welch, these sessions evaluate organizational practices and aim to eliminate unnecessary work.
  • Brag Sessions: A forum for handing out public kudos and accolades.
  • Grapevine Sessions: Regular, open meetings where items from the rumor mill are discussed.
“How do I include people and draw them out? I can only imagine silence when I call a group together.”
In “The Art of Convening,” a TeleTraining series, Craig and Patricia Neal do several valuable exercises, with the extra challenge of working via phone. Participants imagine being in a circle formation, where peerage is automatic. People are welcomed to the circle, with a greeting, poem or thought. The conveners’ intent is to create a “container” for conversation. One opener they use is called “Stringing the Beads.” In essence, each person speaks when they are moved to, their name and thoughts related to a question – adding their “bead” to the necklace. The meeting is book-ended, in that you close in the same manner. A list of Openers/Warm-ups can be found at Products and Services. What is important is to invite the participation at a human and personal level. And maybe a little silence is not a bad thing.


Learn more about the Heartland Institute’s series tele-series, “The Art of Convening”: Heartland.

Key Associates teaches The New Look of Leadership and the Art of Facilitation, and offers Future Search Conferences: Courses.

Methodologies for large group interventions: Large-Scale Engagement.

A worldwide portal devoted to the fullest sharing of academic resources and practical tools on Appreciative Inquiry: Appreciative Inquiry Commons.

Useful Websites & Newsletters

A worldwide network to develop leadership capacity in communities: The Berkana Institute.

The interactive planning process, Future Search: Future Search Network.


Books are linked to Amazon.com descriptions.


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